ACO Violinists Aiko Goto and Liisa Pallandi, ACO String Educators Beth Condon and Anton Baba with a Year 2 class at St Marys North.
Ⓒ Leeroy Te Hira - 2021
At the ACO we know that music education has benefits for children far beyond the development of musical skills and appreciation. Research has shown, beyond a doubt, that music learning can positively impact brain development, educational achievement, emotional and behavioural development, motivation, engagement and well-being. We also believe that music education should be for ALL students, and designed ACO Foundations with a view to addressing equity of access to music education in under-serviced public schools.
The ACO Foundations program aims to:
1. Improve the developmental and educational outcomes of students in low SES public schools; and
2. Demonstrate how music learning can be integrated into the core classroom curriculum for the benefit of all students.
The ACO Foundations model is based on research by Dr Anita Collins which shows that playing a musical instrument can make permanent changes to the structure and functioning of the brain. To see this effect, one must start before the age of seven, practice regularly and often, and continue for at least two years. On this basis, ACO Foundations sees students participate in an intensive instrumental program, commencing in Year One and continuing until the end of Year Three.
ACO Foundations has been running as an expansive pilot program in St Marys North Public School in Western Sydney since 2018. The pilot program commenced with 25 Year One students who participated in the program for two years. From 2020, the expansion began with the entire Year One cohort participating in the program and by 2022 the full program expansion was realised with all of Years One, Two and Three. Now in its sixth year, ACO Foundations sees over 160 students and their classroom teachers participating in the program on a daily basis, with life-changing impacts.
In 2022, the ACO released an Evaluation Report which outlines the ACO Foundations program model and its intended outcomes; the successes and learnings from the five-year pilot program; and highlights the benefits of this innovative approach for students, school staff, parents, and the wider school community. This Evaluation Report demonstrates that ACO Foundations is a model of music education that generates positive and permanent change for students - musically, developmentally, and educationally – and has the potential to make a profound impact on education and performance in low SES schools.
Read the report here.